Standing out in the crowd at trade shows is difficult so don’t leave your success to whoever happens to wander into your booth. Your preparation must go beyond just packing up the booth and sending enough giveaways. The key to a successful trade show depends on a longer term view, understanding why people attend and knowing how to engage them over time to generate a strong return. Try these five steps to trade show success:

1. Set Specific Goals

Strategize based on your business goals, including key new client targeting, new market penetration, product launch and product line extension. Make your goals specific and measurable. Measuring and tracking your results is especially important so you can determine if a show warrants future attendance.

Develop a persona – the ideal client you want to target at the show, including company size, location, industry, etc. Persona development requires you to focus on buyers and not on your product. Successful companies also use trade shows to engage existing prospects and drive them further into the buying process.

2. Create an Offer

Do not just set up a booth and hope “they will come.” Develop an interesting offer, in-depth demonstration, technical show or “can’t miss” presentation.

Focus your message and deliver it consistently. Are you selling products or delivering benefits and solving problems? Make sure your messaging is in the language of the target persona customer and that it speaks to them and their issues.

Use a call to action to attract people to your booth and your company. A call to action prompts attendees to do something. Here are some example calls to action:

  • See the newest ‘your solution here’ in action.
  • We will test (or evaluate, measure, etc.) your samples and give you a free evaluation
  • Receive a copy of our free industry overview

I am not a huge fan of contests because there are a lot of people that troll shows just for the stuff. You attract prospects – real prospects – through solid, interesting and valuable offers.

3. Publicize the Offer to Drive Traffic

Social media is gaining momentum at trade shows, even in technical industries. Understand the show’s Twitter hashtags and use the event tags – and your own – to promote and connect to attendees. Use your company and employee Facebook and LinkedIn pages to post updates about your attendance and offers for the show. Harnessing social media to promote your attendance and build buzz is a great way to prep your booth for success.